It’s time for Blair to quit: Clare Short
LONDON: Former minister Clare Short on Tuesday called on Tony Blair to prepare to step aside as British prime minister, a day after she offered her high-profile resignation as international development secretary.
Following a scathing attack on Blair’s policy on Iraq, Short said the ruling Labour party should organise an “elegant succession”, apparently from Blair to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.
In a joint interview with the Guardian and the Financial Times, Short said the Labour government must be “well led and true to its values”. “The job is, without falling out into horrendous splits, to try and ensure we keep up the quality of the government and, indeed, organise an elegant succession.”
She added: “I think Tony Blair has enormous achievements under his belt and it would be very sad if he hung on and spoiled his reputation.”
In one of the most personal resignation attacks the British parliament has seen for years, Short on Monday blasted Blair for centralising Britain’s political power into his own hands and the hands of an increasingly small number of advisers.
In comments reported in Tuesday’s Financial Times, Short, who believed that only the United Nations had the legal right to install a new Iraqi government, also said that a draft UN resolution on Iraq backed by Britain was “deeply flawed”.
It marginalized the world body and placed Britain in a position that was “legally questionable”.
A draft resolution drawn up by Washington demands the immediate lifting of UN sanctions and the allocation of revenue from Iraq’s massive oil wealth to a new Iraqi Assistance Fund to be spent “at the direction” of the US-led occupying powers.
The resolution allows the UN an essentially supervisory role in the reconstruction of Iraq, relegating it to providing humanitarian relief and support.
Short suggested the government had gone against the advice of its senior legal adviser, the Attorney General, in the draft resolution to the UN Security Council.
With her resignation, reported at length on the front pages of Tuesday’s national newspapers, Short became the second senior member of Blair’s cabinet to quit over the Iraq war.
Former foreign minister Robin Cook resigned as leader of the House of Commons, the lower house of parliament, in March over the government’s decision to join the US-led war on Iraq.
The left-wing Guardian said in an editorial that Blair must listen to Short’s criticisms, but added that they should not provide the touch paper for an attempt to oust him as prime minister.
The right-wing Daily Telegraph attacked Short as an “egotist” rather than an idealist, and dismissed the view that she was the conscience of Britain’s Labour party whose resignation speech was a devastating critique of the direction it had taken under Blair.
Rather than acting as a rallying point for opposition to Blair, the prime minister had little to fear from her dramatic departure.
The right-wing Sun, Britain’s best selling daily, delivered a scathing verdict in an editorial, accusing Short of hypocrisy.
“It may be there is some truth in her warnings about too much spin, control, private decision making and presidential power in Downing Street,” the paper said.
But “if she disliked Blair so much, how come she took his money and held down a major government job for six years?”
The left-of-centre Independent said Short had made a compromise which looked “rather shoddy”, but praised her for her championing of the rights of the poor in her job as international development secretary. —AFP